Jason Calacanis — the serial entrepreneur who founded Weblogs, Mahalo.com, Inside.com, and was an early investor in Uber and Tumblr — has launched an ad blocker.
“AdReplacer” is a Chrome browser extension experiment from the Inside.com news site that seeks to block “obnoxious ads at the bottom of news stories” that link to “spam sites” by replacing them with “the best content from around the web.”
The “quality content” replaces that replaces the ads is curated by human editors.
Calacanis told Business Insider the editorial team is always on, with one to three people working per shift, 24-hours a day. Those editors are being paid between $US14-16 per hour to source originally reported articles from the likes of Bloomberg, Wired, Rolling Stone, and USA Today, among others. The plan further down the line is also to personalise the content to each user by anonymously tracking clicks, Calacanis said on Twitter.
Despite the ad blocker clearly requiring some outgoings, Calacanis told Business Insider he has no intentions at this stage to monetise it.
“This is an experiment. If it works, we can charge for it or come up with some other model that isn’t replacing ads with ads,” he said. One such option he is considering is asking users for donations.
On Twitter, Calacanis called out content recommendation firms Taboola, Outbrain, and ZergNet as the companies AdReplacer is going after.
Taboola declined to comment when contacted by Business Insider, and we are still awaiting response from Outbrain and ZergNet.
The idea of launching an ad blocker that replaces ads with other content is not entirely new. In 2012, CatBlock was launched, which replaces ads with GIFs of cats, earlier this year advertising organisation D&AD launched an ad blocker that swapped out current YouTube ads with those that had received one of its awards, and there’s also Adieu, which allows you to upload your own photos to put in place of ads on websites.
But AdReplacer isn’t trying to replace all ads, only those it deems are “spammy.” Calacanis says it represents a new category — “ad replacing” — which won’t stifle the ad revenue of publishers as ad blocking does. Instead he hopes it will actually benefit publishers by sending more traffic their way (without them having to pay content recommendation platforms like Taboola, Outbrain, and ZergNet for those clicks.)
Calacanis told us: “My guess is that even if everyone loves this, it will only result in maybe 5-10% less ads being shown — [it] doesn’t work on mobile [and] most folks don’t take the time to install ad blockers. You only lose the folks who are savvy, annoyed, and who don’t click on ads anyway.”
The number of consumers using ad blocking software worldwide increased 41% year-on-year to 198 million monthly active users, according to a report published in August by Adobe and ad blocking circumvention company PageFair.
The report suggested that ad blocker users are typically young, technically savvy, and more likely to be male. The highest incidence of ad blocking occurs on gaming, social networking, and tech websites, according to the report.
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